Cancer continues to remain a number one health concern for Americans. The good news is that nearly half of all cancer deaths are preventable and events like the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life not only educate people on what they can do to reduce their cancer risk, but also raise funds that lead to better treatment and more lives saved.
“One in every 100 Americans participates in this fundraising event that has become a global phenomenon,” stated Nicole Williams, event chair.  “Everything we do at Relay For Life contributes to reducing all types of cancer mortality and incidences, whether it’s raising dollars that support free patient programs and services, research or volunteering to commit to advocacy and education efforts – we’re all a part of the fight and we need the community’s help.”  
The annual Relay For Life of Merrill will be held on Aug. 8-9, 2014 at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.  The opening ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. While the event is still several months away, planning committees are currently recruiting more teams to join the event. Teams are often made up of co-workers, friends and family members. Many businesses, schools, organizations and religious groups also build teams. Prior to the Relay event, team members raise dollars by fundraising and securing sponsorships. During Relay For Life, teams camp out overnight and take turns walking a track in an effort to raise awareness and funds in the fight against cancer.
Deloris Bauman, from Merrill has been a volunteer for Relay for Life for many years.  For her, the reason is deeply personal and one that many will relate to.  Relay has empowered her to fight back against a disease that has taken family and friends from her, way too early; her father, brother, nephew, niece and other loved ones are who she remembers as she volunteers and participates in the Luminaria Ceremony.
Bauman needed a way to fight back after her husband was diagnosed with cancer, a few years after their retirement. “Walking beside him through his fight with cancer, seeing the suffering of others at the cancer center, watching people waiting for their loved ones, making friends and sharing support and hope became everyday parts of life. It is difficult to encourage and support your cancer partner when you feel their pain and emotions. You need to do something to fight back,” said Bauman.  
In 2004, Bauman saw a small ad in the local paper looking for people to help set the Relay For Life of Merrill. She had read about it before and had been putting off signing up, but now was the perfect time and she started helping with various jobs and doing some fundraising.
The celebration of survivors is a large part of the Relay For Life event and while watching her husband walk his first Survivor Lap, she and her family knew it was the right time for them to be involved, form a family team and fight back through fundraising and sharing hope.
Bauman says she is often asked, “What do you get for all you do?” For her the answer is simple, “It is when we help others, we truly help ourselves. When you are able to connect with a person in need and can direct them to the American Cancer Society for answers to their questions and finding the help they need, and you hear them come back and say thank you, it is all the reward that is needed. I have had people tell me, ‘Thank you for all you do’, when I ask them to make a donation to our team and event. It is the little things like that where I find the encouragement to continue the fight against cancer and sharing hope.”  
At the event, the Luminaria and Survivor Ceremonies offer time to honor those taken by cancer, support the fighters, and admire the survivors.  Relay For Life participants never give up hope.  Fight Back Ceremony gives everyone a chance to make a personal commitment to take action against cancer throughout the year.  
If you are interested in starting or joining a team, log on to RelayForLife.org/merrillwi and follow the links to register for the Relay For Life of Merrill.  If you’re not able to join a team, simply log on to make a donation. For more information, call Nicole Williams at 715-212-0543 or the local American Cancer Society office at 715-277-4392.